The liquid amber tree (Liquidambar styraciflua), also known as sweet gum, is native to North America and grows in United States Department of Agriculture growing zones 5b through 10a. It has dark green foliage that turns red, purple, orange or yellow in the fall, depending on the climate. This tree grows quickly and produces ornamental fruit. Once established, it requires little maintenance. Liquid amber trees are very difficult to propagate, so your best bet is to purchase a small tree from a nursery. The trees grow naturally in wet locations and prefer moist soil, but they are tolerant of a variety of growing conditions.
Plant the tree at least 8 feet from any structures in partial shade or full sun; the large, elaborate root system can uproot structures like sidewalks and driveways. Dig the hole so it is three times as deep as the width of the root base. Ensure the root base has plenty of room so the roots aren't damaged during planting and can easily spread once established. Set the tree in the hole so the top of the original planting material is flush, or slightly higher, than the ground. Back fill with dirt and tamp it down to remove air pockets.
Fertilise the tree with a general-purpose fertiliser after planting, and mulch well. Add 2 to 4 inches of mulch around the tree. Taper the mulch so it is less than 1 inch high near the tree trunk. The mulch helps prevent weeds from growing, conserves moisture and adds nutrients. Organic mulch like bark or wood chips work well.
Water the tree well, particularly during the first year, to increase its chances of survival. Once it is established (several years old), only water in periods of drought.
Do not prune the top of the tree. It will not grow properly after and will become more susceptible to insects and disease.
Tips and warnings
- Do not prune the top of the tree. It will not grow properly after and will become more susceptible to insects and disease.